Tales of the City: Drawings in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel

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By: Emily J. Peters, Curator of Prints and Drawings, The Cleveland Museum of Art and Laura Ritter, Curator of Netherlandish Art, The Albertina, Vienna, Austria. With contributions from Koenraad Jonckheere, Professor of Northern Renaissance and Baroque Art, Ghent University, Belgium, and Stephanie Porras, Assistant Professor, Art History, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana.

Synonymous with artists such as Jheronimus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder, and with intellectual figures such as Erasmus, Hugo Grotius, and Karel van Mander, the sixteenth-century Netherlands witnessed dramatic religious, political, and social developments: the Protestant Reformation, the Eighty Years’ War, an economic boom and rising middle class, and the Netherlandish city’s flourishing as a site for civic and cultural identity. Tales of the City: Drawing in the Netherlands from Bosch to Bruegel brings together sixteenth-century Netherlandish drawings from the collections of the Albertina Museum, Vienna, and the Cleveland Museum of Art in order to propose a new framework for understanding the role of drawing in Northern Europe during this turbulent period. Seeking to benefit from the vast array of opportunities presented by the vibrant urban culture, artists flocked to cities such as Antwerp and Haarlem early in the century. Trading nations, professional guilds, confraternities, civic militia groups, parish churches, and civic governments offered commissions for the adornment of their chapter houses, guild halls, and chapels. In this setting, drawing—previously employed mainly for copying—performed a multitude of roles. It became an indispensable tool for conceptualizing artistic projects, ranging from stained-glass windows, tapestries, and ephemeral decorations for festivals, to paintings and prints. Drawing also served as a means to explore new subjects, to convey ideas to collaborators, to maintain a record of workshop output, and to create autonomous works in their own right. Tales of the City features four essays and more than ninety catalogue entries by the exhibition’s curators and other scholars that address the range of innovative techniques and subject matter that artists such as Bosch, Bruegel, Hendrick Goltzius, Jan Gossart, Maarten van Heemskerck, and their contemporaries explored as they considered both the built environment and the rapidly changing social and ritual lives of their audiences. Thoroughly researched and lavishly illustrated, this volume and the exhibition it accompanies represent a major contribution to the study and appreciation of Netherlandish art and of drawing as an art form.

322 pages with 244 black-and-white and color illustrations

Published October 2022